In this blog post (how to choose PhD research topics), I will be sharing tips to choose a research topic for a Doctoral degree.
Considerable tips to choose PhD research topics
It is a well-known fact that choosing a good topic for carrying out research is time-consuming. Generally, it may take a few months to one year to find out a suitable research problem. However, the most essential step for doing a Ph.D. depends upon the statement of the problem. Selecting a suitable research problem/topic forms the basis of any research study. Based on the selected research problem, a student identifies an appropriate method or designs an experiment to find a suitable solution. The research topic should be clear, concise, well-structured, and logical.
The qualities of a good research topic are as follows:
- It should be systematic.
- The research topic should have 3-5 objectives in it.
- It should be able to solve daily life practical problems.
- It should be able to apply directly for societal benefit.
- It should help in decision-making.
- The research results should be replicable and observable in nature.
Apart from these, the selected research topic should be feasible. The research problem should not be too short or narrow in scope. Following are some of the tips for choosing a good research topic:
1. Literature Review
The task of finding research topics starts with the literature review. The research students must spend a considerable amount of time doing a literature survey. The literature review can do with the help of online databases such as Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Science Direct. The related topics can be searched by downloading published articles, journals, books, and chapters. It will help in background research of the proposed topic. It will help in increasing the in-depth knowledge of the subject. A literature review helps in the identification of all the available data, research methodologies, and research gaps in the interested area. A literature review basically gives an overview of the topic/area like what has been done so far, what can be done to improve the existing criteria, and how to develop the product in the future. Apart from this, it also helps in finding the problems and challenges associated with the existing data.
2. Attending Conferences help a lot to choose PhD research topics
Attending conferences and talking with people will help also help you to identify a research problem for your Ph.D. Research students should attend a number of conferences, seminars, or workshops. This provides a good platform for the exchange of ideas between relevant people, scientists, and experts from the field. It helps in the brainstorming of the students. Group discussion with people of the same area helps in developing a specific problem. It will ultimately help in selecting a tentative research topic with suitable solutions. The research students should be in contact with his/her seniors/ post-doctoral students/ research associates who will provide proper guidance and support.
3. Formulate the Ph.D. Research Topic
In General, the research students don’t have any ideas on how to select a new topic for his/her Ph.D. In that case, it is advisable to students that students should not select a new topic. It will be time-consuming and difficult for them. Instead, they can continue with their previous MSc/M. Tech project dissertations. They can improve the existing methods or technologies. It gives them confidence and the problem can be solved easily within a given duration. The research students should always develop a general and a known topic.
4. Relevance of Research Topic
The research topic which is selected should be relevant. It should not be repeated again. It should be to answer the following questions:
- What is the severity of the research Problem?
- What group of people are affected?
- Will my research results be able to solve the problem?
- Does it have ethical acceptability? It should not cause any harm to any religion, caste, or creed.
- Does it have political acceptability? It should hurt any religious sentiments or cause any violation of the people.
- Accordingly, the research student should be able to form a research hypothesis.
5. Applicable to the Society
The research topic should be selected in a such way that it is directly applicable to society and people are benefitted from this. Examples under this category may include
- How to increase crop Production?
- How to treat a particular disease?
- How can virtual platforms for teaching be improved?
- How to predict and prevent Natural Disasters?
6. Consider different Scenarios
There are different scenarios depending on the type of universities or research institutions the student has joined. Suppose a student has joined a project leading to a Ph.D. sponsored by some funding agencies, then the topic is somewhat pre-defined. The student will have all the available resources for carrying out the research. He/She must focus on designing experiments, methodologies for data collection, sampling, etc. Any part of the project can be taken and used for further research purposes. However, first, the student must finish the project before the deadline.
On the Other hand, if a student joins any institute directly under the supervisor, he/she must select a topic according to their interest.
- Choose a Broader Topic of interest.
- Select a sub-field within the broader area.
- Choose a specific area in which you want to work.
- Identify the unsolved problem.
- Propose solutions to the problem.
The search for the Ph.D. topic should be begun as early as possible. The student should be in the practice doing an extensive literature survey. He/ she should be familiar with current happenings about his/her subject matter. The student should be in a habit of learning new technical and computational skills. He/she should gain hands-on experience performing practical experiments in his/her field. The research students should not jump directly to conclusions. While submitting a research proposal on a particular research topic, he/she should consult with seniors and discuss it with colleagues. A rough draft with all possible objectives should be written. Then, the objectives and possibility of carrying out the research should be discussed with the Ph.D. supervisor/ guide for approval. The student should set up his/her mind to accommodate any changes in the topic. By doing so, any student can carry out his research study smoothly within a particular timeframe.
We hope that the provided tips to choose Ph.D. research topics will help you.
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Dr. Sunny is an Assistant Professor in higher education. He has completed his Ph.D. He has a depth of knowledge in the research field and in higher education.